Josh Maja's excellence gives Sunderland a transfer dilemma as they impress against Luton Town

As Lynden Gooch drives towards goal, Josh Maja first feints to spin in behind the centre-back.

Monday, 13th August 2018, 12:11 pm
Updated Monday, 13th August 2018, 12:13 pm

Matty Pearson drops deep, but is forced to move again as Maja instead takes a step forwards.

Then is the decisive moment - Maja darting across the box to meet a perfect pass. Pearson has been left for dead and can only watch on as his 19-year-old counterpart comfortably and confidently scores.

Josh Maja.

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The celebration that followed, an ode to the French prodigy Kylian Mbappe, only served to underline that this a confident youngster thriving on the pressure of leading in the line in early season.

When Maja and Joel Asoro first burst onto the scene last season, the sheer pace of Asoro meant that he appeared more ‘ready’ for senior football.

At Swansea City, he is already making a significant impression.

Many behind the scenes, however, felt that Maja’s temperament and game intelligence marked him out as one who could go a long way in the game.

The movement, composure and technical quality that led to this goal underlined that.

It poses something of a dilemma for Sunderland and Jack Ross as they look to add another striker to their ranks.

For much of this game, Pearson and his fellow Luton defenders felt comfortable against Maja.

It is little secret that his game is not suited to making long balls stick and on the narrow Kenilworth Road pitch, there were times when the Black Cats were crying out for Charlie Wyke.

As Luton’s clever diamond system allowed their midfielders to rotate with ease, on occasions Sunderland struggled to break the pressure.

But with the ball at his feet, Maja can force the issue and open up the game.

He has shown in two games that he deserves the chance to be a regular this season.

Ross will almost certainly add another young striker on loan in the coming weeks. With Wyke and Jerome Sinclair injured, he is an injury to Maja away from having no orthodox striking options.

To win promotion, four strikers are normally required.

It would be a shame, however, if developing another club’s asset came at the expense of Maja’s growth.

Ross will be determined to ensure that there is not too much pressure on the shoulders of the former Manchester City man and adding another option will alleviate that.

That Maja seems ready to kick on, however, after being curatiled by an injury last season, will be an exhilirating prospect for supporters.

His performance on Saturday was neatly reflected in that of his team.

Luton were a challenging prospect, benefiting from the continuity and momentum carried through from their promotion-winning campaign.

Sunderland were at times indebted to the experience and power of Glenn Loovens at the back, who showed why Ross was so keen to bring him in.

In midfield, the outstanding work-rate of Chris Maguire and George Honeyman kept them competitive.

It was a game in which they had to earn the right to show off their attacking prowess and as well as Maja, Gooch was a constant threat.

Ross will want mopre from his team but he will be encouraged by that blend of resilience and individual quality.

Sunderland’s summer turnover was vast compared to most teams in this league and so it will be harder and take longer for them to gel as a unit.

To be producing positive results at this stage offers some hope that when the cavalry returns from the treatment room, they will truly be a force in this division.

It would be little surprise if Maja continued to lead from the front when that happens.